The Conservatives are considering cutting an Access To Work scheme for disabled people, it has emerged today.
Access to Work provides advice and support to employers and vulnerable disabled people to help them back into work. This may include covering the costs of workplace adaptations, travel costs and tailoring back-to-work support to individual needs.
In an ‘Equality analysis for the future of Access to Work‘ document published on the government’s website, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advocates “a fresh look at how the scheme can continue to support more disabled people, within a finite budget”.
One of the options on the table is “to set a cap on the maximum value of support per user”, which could see support slashed for disabled people with some of the biggest barriers to employment.
The report welcomes an increase in the number of disabled people supported through the scheme, up from 31,510 in 2012/13 to 35,450 in 2013/14, but warns that there has been “an increase in the cost of average awards, creating additional pressure on funding”.
Adding: “We must achieve a balance between meeting customer need and achieving value for money for the taxpayer.
“It has been a long-standing aspiration of the programme to support more disabled people into work, so we must address the challenge of supporting this growth whilst keeping Access to Work affordable.”
During 2013/14, Access to Work supported 35,540 disabled people to retain or find employment, at a total cost to the treasury of £108 million – up from £95 million in the previous year.
Should the Conservatives move to cut Access To Work, which some commentators say has been one of their very few back-to-work scheme successes, it could add fuel to claims that the Tories are ‘the nasty party’ and will target vulnerable disabled people in their bid to cut £12bn from welfare spending.
The Conservatives admit in their manifesto that the jobless rate for disabled people “remains too high”, but critics will argue that cutting employment support for the hardest to help would do little to address this issue.